Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Valentine’s Day is next month and I like to cook a special dinner and make a special dessert for the day.  This year I’m making a favorite chocolate and peanut butter pie.  I’ve been making it for holiday dinners for a few years now.

This pie has three delicious layers: a chocolate cookie crust, a no-bake peanut butter filling, and a chocolate ganache topping.  This is an amazingly decadent and rich pie.  If you love peanut butter and chocolate, this is the pie for you.

The recipe is adapted from a favorite food blogger and cookbook author Jennifer Segal (once upon a chef).  Please visit her web site for beautiful photos of the preparation process.  In April 2018, her first cookbook, Once Upon a Chef, The Cookbook:  100 Tested, Perfected, and Family-Approved Recipes was released.

I bought my hardcover copy from Amazon for $17.58.  It is also available for the Kindle.  My local library has it available in hardcover and electronic resource format.  Perhaps, your library does also.  I can recommend this cookbook.  It has amazing recipes and beautiful photos of the food.  I hope you get a chance to read it.

This is an easy recipe to make even with the three steps required to make it.  It is almost a no-bake recipe, except for the quick 10 minute bake of the crust.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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For the Crust

4  tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (1/2 cup)
2 cups finely ground chocolate wafer cookies, such as Nabisco Chocolate Wafers (see note)

For the Peanut Butter Filling

1 cup cold heavy cream
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup smooth peanut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Topping

4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup salted roasted peanuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter.  Add the chocolate and stir until melted.  Add the cookie crumbs and stir until evenly combined.  Press the cookie crumbs evenly over the bottom and up the rim of an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then cool on a rack.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream until stiff peaks form.  Set aside in the refrigerator while preparing the rest of the filling.

In a large bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Add the sugar and mix until well blended.  Add peanut butter and vanilla, beating until combined.  Scrape the sides of the mixing bowl as needed to ensure that the ingredients are fully combined.    

Add one-third of the whipped cream to the peanut butter mixture and beat on low speed to combine.

Add the remaining whipped cream and using a large rubber spatula, fold until evenly combined.  Spoon the filling into the crust, smoothing the surface.  Refrigerate uncovered for about 1 hour.

Place chocolate chips and heavy cream in a microwave-safe bowl and heat on low heat for 20-30 second intervals.  Remove the bowl from the microwave and stir with a spatula and repeat in 20-30 seconds intervals until the chocolate is completely melted.  Stir until well blended, then let cool to just warm, stirring occasionally.  Spread the chocolate topping over the chilled peanut butter filling.  Return to the refrigerator and chill uncovered for an additional 3 hours.

When ready to serve, carefully remove the rim from the pan by gently pressing upwards on the bottom while holding the rim in place.  Slice and serve cold, garnished with chopped peanuts if desired.

Note:
It takes about 40 cookies from a 9-ounce package to make 2 cups ground cookie crumbs.

Since it is a cold and snowy day as I write this post, I’m including a cute snowman from my photo archives.  The upside down snowman was spotted in my neighborhood a couple of years ago.

 

Winter Citrus Salad

Do you want to brighten up the gloomy days of January?  If so, make a Winter Citrus Salad.  I’ve been making a version of this salad for a few years now and really look forward to the winter citrus fruit.

Speaking of gloomy, Grand Rapids is the sixth cloudiest city in the US.   (According to our local TV station, WoodTV.)  When we do have a beautiful sunshiny day, we almost feel the need to celebrate it.

I was able to find oranges and grapefruit from Florida.  The blood oranges were from California.  Since I’m from Florida, I’m always happy to find Florida citrus.

You really don’t need a recipe for this salad.  Wash, peel, and slice some of your favorite citrus and drizzle with a salad dressing, if desired.  It is equally good served plain.

Winter Citrus Salad

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 navel oranges
2 Cara Cara oranges
2 blood oranges
1 pink grapefruit
Spring Mix Salad Greens
slivers of red onion
pomegranate seeds

Salad Dressing (optional)

Wash and dry the citrus.  Cut off the top and bottom and set upright on a cutting board.  With a sharp knife cut off the peel and as much of the pith as possible.  Slice the citrus into rounds and set aside.  Arrange a thin layer of the spring mix salad greens on a serving plate.  Layer the slices of the citrus on the lettuce.  Add the red onion.  Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.  Serve plain or with a favorite salad dressing.  

Here is a picture of a sunset over my neighborhood from a few days ago.  It was after one of our rare days of beautiful sunshine.

Note:
After i purchased a fresh pomegranate, I discovered that POM now markets the pomegranate fresh arils in  a 4.3 ounce size.  I used some of them for the salad in this post.  They were sweet, tart, and as crunchy as the ones from the fresh pomegranate.

 

Devil’s Food Cake With Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

This Devil’s food cake is a favorite dessert for Christmas dinner.  I have been baking this cake for many years and have always been happy with the results.  Even though it is made from a boxed mix, the resulting cake is still rich and moist.

Packaged mixes for cakes have been around for a long time, since the early 1920s.  Dried eggs and milk were at first included in the mixes.  The mixes later on had the cook add fresh eggs and milk.  I suppose to make it seem more homemade.

Christmas is just a few days away.  I love all things Christmas, especially baking treats, decorating the tree, Christmas music, and movies.  I also love the Christmas lights. We actually have some pretty light displays in my neighborhood.  A lot of the neighbors seem to have the Christmas spirit this year.

We took time one night to visit a nearby Christmas Lite Show.  It is located at the Fifth Third Ballpark where our local minor league baseball team plays.  The light show is West Michigan’s largest, animated, drive-through light show.  The show has almost two miles of lights, tunnels, and animated displays.

This spectacular light show originated twenty-one years ago.  It has become a fun family tradition for many.  According to the booklet handed out with our ticket, over 50,000 visitors of all ages visited the Christmas Lite Show last year.  There is a charge per car but some of the proceeds are donated to the Grand Rapids Veterans Home.

Anyhow, if you are looking to make a cake for Christmas, try this one.  It is dark, chocolatey, and moist.  It turns out perfect every time.  The chocolate cream cheese frosting is creamy and smooth and is the perfect compliment to this cake.

Devil's Food Cake With Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

For the Cake

1 Duncan Hines Devil’s Food Cake Mix (15.25 oz size)
1 cup water
1/3 cup Vegetable Oil
3 large eggs

For the Frosting

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
4 1/2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 box Domino Confectioners Sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons milk, as needed

4 ounces (1/2 cup) Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Chips, melted and cooled

Prepare the Cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease the sides and bottom of two 9 inch cake pans with butter or spray with cooking spray.  Line with parchment paper.  Set aside.

With a mixer, blend the cake mix, water, oil, and eggs in a large bowl at low speed until moistened (about 30 seconds).  Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.  Evenly divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans.

Bake in center of oven at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pans on wire rack for 15 minutes.  Remove cakes from pan and discard the parchment paper.  Cool completely before frosting

Prepare the Frosting

In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Gradually beat in the confectioners sugar on medium speed until blended.   Add the vanilla, salt,  and the cooled melted Hershey’s chips.  Mix until blended,  scraping mixing bowl as necessary.   Add milk, if needed.  Frost the layers and side of the cooled cakes immediately or store covered in the refrigerator.

Note:
There is no definite answer as to why the cake is named Devil’s Food cake.  Some think it was named the opposite of “Angel Food Cake” since it is different in flavor and texture.

 

 

 

 

Mashed Potatoes

Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner would not be complete without mashed potatoes on the table.  This comfort food also shows up at a lot of our family dinners.

These are not just regular mashed potatoes.  In fact, they are actually riced potatoes.  I discovered the potato ricer many years ago after I messed up some mashed potatoes for a special family dinner.  I’m not sure what happened at that dinner, but the potatoes turned out very gluey and not good at all.  Possibly, it was the type of potato or the fact that I beat them too much with my hand mixer.

I went on a hunt for perfect mashed potatoes and found recipes using the ricer.  Many years later I’m still using the ricer to make perfect mashed potatoes.  Using a ricer almost guarantees light and fluffy mashed potatoes with no lumps.

I like to use Yukon Gold potatoes for this recipe.  Yukon Golds are a light yellow-fleshed potato and make wonderful mashed potatoes.  We can thank our good friends to the North for this potato as it was developed in Canada in the 1960’s.

The first published recipe for mashed potatoes can be found as far back in history as 1747.  Hannah Glasse’s cookbook The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy was published in 1747 in England.  The  cookbook was very popular in England.  Her recipe for mashed potatoes is very similar to the way they are made today:

Boil your potatoes, peel them, and then put into a sauce-pan, mash them well.  To two pounds of potatoes, put a pint of milk, a little salt, stir them well together, take care they don’t stick to the bottom, then take a quarter pound of butter, stir in and serve it up.”

I bought a paperback copy of The Art of Cookery Made Plan and Easy  from Amazon.  However, there are free digital versions available.  Here is a link to a digital version on Google Books.

These potatoes are light, fluffy, and incredibly smooth.  It may take a little extra work using a potato ricer, but the results are worth it.  Below is a photo of the riced potatoes I made for this post.  Even with using the potato ricer, this is a really easy and fairly quick recipe.

Mashed Potatoes

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened (use more butter, as needed)
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup Half and Half, (or more, as needed)
salt and pepper to taste

Peel, wash, and cut the potatoes in medium sized chunks.  Place in a Dutch oven and cover with water.  Cook over medium heat until the potatoes are fork tender.  Drain the potatoes.  Using a ricer, press potatoes into a large bowl.  Stir in the butter, cream cheese, sour cream, salt and pepper.  Add milk until of the desired consistency.  Do not over stir the potatoes or they could become gummy.  Serve immediately, if possible.  If not serving immediately, reheat in microwave in 1-minute intervals until heated through, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes.  

Below are pictures of the potatoes from our Thanksgiving Day dinner.  My son-in-law made the potatoes using the ricer.

 

Note:
Potato ricers are available from Amazon starting at $14.

Jiffy Corn Casserole

I only discovered this recipe for Jiffy Corn Casserole about 5 years ago.  A friend gave me the recipe, and I have been making it since then for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter dinners.  It may be my favorite comfort food now.

There are several different versions of the recipe.  Some recipes do not have eggs or the cheese in them.  I think that this version that includes both eggs and cheese is perfect.

The recipe uses a box of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix which can be used to make muffins as well as other recipes such as the corn casserole in this post.  The muffin mix is widely available in most USA grocery stores and also from Walmart.

I didn’t know this till researching this post but Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix is made by a Michigan Company.  The Jiffy Mix brand is a product of the Chelsea Milling Company located in Chelsea, Michigan.  The mill was established in 1901.  The Jiffy Mix product was first marketed in 1930.  Some of the other products made by Jiffy Mix include muffin, cake, fudge and pie crust mixes.

The Chelsea Milling Company is about a two hour drive from Grand Rapids by way of I96 East.  They do offer tours of the Jiffy Mix plant.  I need to remember that this summer for a day trip.  It should be an interesting tour.

This Jiffy Corn Casserole is delicious, easy, and makes a perfect side dish for your holiday dinner.

Jiffy Corn Casserole

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 – 14.75 ounce can cream style corn
1 – 15.25 ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
2 eggs
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
1 – 8.5 ounce package Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Grease or spray with non-stick spray a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish.  Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine the cream style corn, whole kernel corn, eggs, sour cream, muffin mix, melted butter, and 1 cup of the cheddar cheese.  Pour into the prepared casserole dish.  Bake in a preheated oven for 45-50  minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese over the top.  Return to the oven for 5-10 minutes longer or until the center is firm.

Notes:
1.  The recipe is titled Spoon Bread Casserole on Jiffy’s website.  It doesn’t include cheese and uses smaller cans of corn.
2.  This is a very easy recipe as you simply combine the ingredients and bake.

 

Feud Cake

If you have ever visited Panama City Beach, Florida, chances are that you have eaten at one of America’s  most famous restaurants.  That would be Captain Anderson’s.  The restaurant is known for fresh seafood from the nearby Gulf of Mexico.  In fact, you can go early and watch some of the fishing boats returning from a day of fishing.

As well as seafood, Captain Anderson’s is also known for a cake called Feud Cake.  However, the Feud Cake was first served at a restaurant in downtown Panama City called the Seven Seas Restaurant.  That restaurant was open from 1953 to 1967 and was owned and operated by the Patronis brothers, who later opened Captain Anderson’s.

Anytime I have been fortunate to eat at Captain Anderson’s, I always had the Feud Cake for dessert.  It is a cake made with finely chopped pecans and topped with lots of  whipped cream.  The nutty flavor of the finely chopped pecans compliments the slightly sweetened whipped cream.

For the cake in this post, I used a recipe from The Panama City Junior Service League cookbook, Bay Leaves, originally published in 1975.  It is primarily a collection of favorite recipes.  The Feud Cake recipe was contributed by the Seven Seas Restaurant.  My copy of Bay Leaves was gifted to me by a beloved family member.  Bay Leaves cookbook is available from several sources online.

According to the cookbook, the name of the cake is derived from a legend that two families claimed ownership of the recipe.  Their argument turned into a feud, with the families forgotten but not the cake.

I used a small amount of cream cheese in the whipped cream as a means to stabilize it.

Feud Cake

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Feud Cake

16 ounces pecan halves

8 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder

Use a food processor to finely chop the pecans and set aside.  You should have about 5 cups of finely chopped pecans.

Beat eggs at a high speed for 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla and beat to combine.  Gradually add sugar.

Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder together and add to the egg mixture.  Beat another 5 minutes.  Add the pecans at low speed to moisten well and beat for about 1 minute.  Pour the mixture into 3 greased and parchment lined 8 or 9-inch cake pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cakes come out clean.    Cool in pans 10 minutes.  Carefully run a knife around the edges of the cake to help loosen from the pans.   Remove from pans to wire racks, discard the parchment paper and cool completely.  Frost layers and sides of the cake with the whipped cream.  Garnish the top of the cake with pecans halves, if desired.

Feud Cake Topping

1 tablespoon softened cream cheese (optional)
4 cups  heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

With the wire whip of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese on low adding a little of the whipping cream at a time.  When all the cream is incorporated, add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract.  Beat on high until stiff peaks are formed.    

Notes:

This post is dedicated to the people in the Florida Panhandle that recently underwent the destruction of Hurricane Michael.  A virtual hug, if you will.

On October 10, Hurricane Micahel roared ashore as a Category 4, with winds as high as 155 miles per hour.  Panama City and towns east of it, to include the military installation, Tyndall Air Force Base suffered great devastation.

I am a native Floridian and proud to call Panama City my hometown.   My heart broke watching and reading about the devastation caused by the hurricane.  Hopefully, recovery will be faster than anticipated.

Apple Butter

Have you been apple picking and perhaps have lots of apples on hand?  I have a lot of apples on hand but I’m too lazy to pick them.  It is just too easy to buy them from farm stands and the farmers market.  Pictured below are local Honeycrisp and Cortland apples I used for this recipe.

I still have plans to use some of the Honeycrisp apples in an apple pie but in the meantime I made some homemade apple butter.  I didn’t realize how easy it is to make.

A lot of the recipes use a slow cooker but for this recipe I used the stove top method.

Apple butter does not contain any butter.  It is basically concentrated apple sauce flavored with spices such as cinnamon and ground cloves.  Chunks of the apples are cooked with the spices and usually apple cider.  Once the apples are tender, they are pureed and cooked again until the apples are dark brown and caramelized.

A benefit of making apple butter is that your house will smell amazing.  There will be no need for one of those expensive candles.

I made two separate batches for this post.  The first batch I used Honeycrisp apples and for the second batch I used the Cortland variety.  I think I prefer the Honeycrisp apple although a lot of recipes recommend using a softer variety such as the Cortland.

Apple butter tastes great on hot biscuits, toast,  and English muffins.

Apple Butter

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

3 pounds of apples (washed and dried off)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup apple cider

Peel, core, and chop the apples.  Coat apples with lemon juice as you are cutting them and place in a large Dutch oven.  Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, ground cloves, and salt.  Sprinkle over the apples.  Toss to coat well.  Stir in the apple cider.

Cook over medium heat uncovered, until apples are tender, about 30-45 minutes.  Use an immersion blender to puree the apples.  (Or carefully transfer the mixture to a blender or food processer and puree, then pour back into the same Dutch oven.) Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30-45 minutes.  Apple butter is done when it is thick and jam like in consistency.

Cool completely and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Makes about 3 cups of apple butter.  

Note:
Apple butter freezes well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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